One of my favorite Sex and the City episodes discusses secret single behavior, which is something that both men and women can probably relate to. After Carrie moves in with Aidan she talks with her friends about the loss of her alone time, aka the loss of time for her secret single behaviors, such as standing in the kitchen reading fashion magazines while eating a tower of saltines with grape jelly.
I’m fortunate that my relationship has never involved much humility. We both realize how ridiculous the other one is, so nothing surprises us too much. At the same time, I do notice my behavior shift a bit when he’s out of town. Since we’re currently right smack dab in the middle of prime deer hunting season, the past few weeks have brought on a lot of secret single behavior opportunities.
Like when I dramatically belt out Taylor Swift songs at the top of my lungs while in the shower. Or when I sit in my underwear and watch cooking shows while eating stale toast. Or when I get out some Christmas trinkets for a few hours just to see how it feels (hint: it feels AMAZING).
These are all hypothetical examples. Totally.
A single behavior that’s NOT so secret? Pretty much every day when the boy’s away I eat a super weird experimental meal. Sure, we experiment when we cook together, but when he’s gone our kitchen transforms into a scientific laboratory where meat-lovers go to die. It’s all about things like tofu, quinoa, kasha, barley, and embracing the green and leafy.
More often than not these experiments highlight the only thing I have found that the boy will absolutely not eat. Brussels sprouts are known to polarize the general population, but our home is especially divided. I love them, LOVE them. They’re just so darn cute, with their little baby cabbage form, and then there’s that fun texture, and don’t even get me started on the endless options for preparation…what’s not to love!?
On the other side of the brussels sprout spectrum stands the boy, who says they taste like dirt and sulfur. When we started dating I was all, “I’ll make brussels sprouts for you and I’ll change your mind, you just wait and see!” Welp, I made them for him, and he kindly ate one, but it did not go well. I’m happy we made it past that blip of a date.
Last weekend I decided to expand my brussels sprout horizon with a gratin of sorts. Since I wanted something substantial to have for my weekday lunches, I decided to add quinoa to the mix and bake it all together in a sort of mac and cheese brussels sprout gratin type thing. Ya dig?
The cheese sauce for this recipe is very similar to my Double Tomato Pepperjack Macaroni Bake. It’s a super easy sauce that starts with a roux and lends itself well to experimentation with different cheeses and spices, so play away.
The brussels sprouts are slightly roasted first, and then cook fully in the gratin. When all is said and done, the sprouts have just the slightest bite to them. I love the textural combination of the sprouts mixed with the quinoa and smooth sauce. The parmesan and crispy bread crumbs on top are just extra credit, really.
Another secret single behavior? Eating this gratin right out of the pan. I ate lunch at 2:00 on Sunday, then I cut a piece of the gratin for photographs around 3:00. It was so cheesy, creamy and dreamy, I just kept lifting up the fork for pictures and finding the bites disappear into my belly. This, my friends, is what secret single behavior is all about.
- 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
- 1 pound brussels sprouts, quartered
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 1 cup gruyere, shredded
- ½ cup fontina, shredded
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 slice whole wheat bread, processed into crumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed.
- Toss the brussels sprouts with ½ tablespoon of olive oil and roast for 10-15 minutes, until just starting to brown. They will continue to cook in the gratin, so you don’t want to overcook them at this stage.
- Reduce oven heat to 350
- Toss the roasted sprouts with the quinoa, thyme, and parsley.
- Melt the butter over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Pour milk into the saucepan, bring to a light boil, and whisk constantly for 5 minutes until thickened.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the gruyere, fontina, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir into the quinoa/sprout mixture.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the breadcrumbs, and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly browned and crisp.
- Pour the quinoa/sprout mixture into an 8×8-inch dish, then with the parmesan and breadcrumbs.
- Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting in.